Can a background extra use an appearance in a Super Bowl commercial to become a leading man?
Like so many others, Jesse Heiman moved to Los Angeles hoping to become successful in the entertainment business. Lacking contacts, training, and a job, he signed up for background extra work. His distinctive, unusual looks have led to steady work ever since, garnering split-second appearances in the backgrounds of scores of popular films and TV series. After a Swedish man began to notice Heiman popping up in various films, he compiled these appearances in a YouTube video that heralded the young actor as the “World’s Greatest Extra.” That video went viral, leading to a guest appearance on Leno, and, most significantly, a Super Bowl commercial for GoDaddy. With this set up, director/producer Nick Weis and producer/editor Emily Carroll follow Heiman for the next year, to see if this newfound attention can be harnessed into lasting fame, or if instead he’s destined to return to the shadowy backgrounds while others take the spotlight.
Weis and Carroll have less than a week left in their Kickstarter campaign for initial production funds. At the time of this writing, they’ve raised nearly a third of their $65,000 goal, so they could use the help of anyone interested in making a contribution. For more information and to keep updated on the project, visit its Facebook page.
Hollywood is littered with would-be stars, background extras, and character actors who never seem to get the respect they deserve. In this way, Heiman functions as an Everyman, attempting to live out the dreams shared by so many others, even if the odds are against him. At the same time, he’s already benefited from viral awareness – more so than scores of others who’ve found themselves at the center of the latest, quick-to-be-forgotten bit of shared social media – so he may just be at the start of his fifteen minutes of fame. Weis and Carroll’s intriguing project taps into our culture’s hunger for celebrity, using a decidedly underdog protagonist to explore the fickleness of modern fame. With Heiman’s future uncertain, it remains to be seen if audiences will witness an unlikely success story, a cautionary tale about the limits of modern attention spans, or something in-between.
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